Explanation of Riwoche Temple Statues
The central statue on the shrine is Shakyamuni, the Lord Buddha. Shakyamuni was born nearly 3,000 years ago* to the king and queen in India. However, at the age of 29 Shakyamuni gave up the life of a prince to become a monk. As a young man, he practiced asceticism for 6 years and in his following meditations he attained full enlightenment. The rest of his life he taught from the basis of his enlightenment, teaching the Lesser Vehicle, the Greater Vehicle and the Vehicle of Tantra. He brought countless numbers of people of this world to a state of freedom from suffering and complete happiness. He initiated the Buddhist teaching not just on earth but throughout the universe and gave sentient beings everywhere the opportunity to hear Dharma. He was incomparable in his influence, both because of the great kindness which he has shown to the people of this world, and due to the depths of his great qualities.
To the left of Shakyamuni sits Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche. Padmasambhava appeared in the world miraculously two thousand eight hundred and seventy-five years ago manifesting on a lotus arising in the Dhanakosha lake in the northwest of lndia. He lived as the son of the king lndrabhuti and attained the supreme realization beyond death. He benefits sentient beings in many ways. Most especially, he was extremely kind to Tibet, for he was the sun which shone the light of Dharma on Tibet, who illuminated the dark land of Tibet and made it a spiritual country.
On the far left of the altar is seated the statue of the great Buddhist Master, Shantarakshita. He was born in Bengal, also to a royal family, and became a Master of both Sutra and Tantra. He was already 500 years old in the eight century when he was invited to Tibet to teach Buddhism. He designed Tibet’s first monastery, Samye, and he ordained the Buddhist monks in Tibet. He brought the teachings of the Sutras to Tibet and most especially the teachings on love and compassion, known as the teachings of the Mahayana, and so he is regarded as the moon which shone the light of Dharma on Tibet.
Between Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita is the statue of the great Tibetan King Trisong Deutsen, the 35th ruling king of Tibet. Trisong Deutsen was monarch at the height of Tibet’s political power. He invited Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava to Tibet, as well as the great Master, Vimalamitra and altogether a total of 108 Buddhist masters from India to Tibet. He sponsored the translation of both the Sutras and Tantras into the Tibetan language . He built many schools and retreat centres and was the patron of the first monasteries of Tibet, including Samye. Through his efforts, both the teachings and the number of people achieving realization increased dramatically. The king himself also became a great Buddhist master who attained highest realization. Thus his life was remarkable both in a spiritual and worldly fashion. No one has been kinder to the Tibetan people than Trisong Deutsen. (Padmasambhava, Shantarashita and Trisong Deutsen are grouped together under a single phrase, namely, “Khenlob Chosum” and they are the source of all Buddhism in Tibet.)
To the right of Shakyamuni is the statue of Tara. She is a deity who took the vow to attain full enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings many, many eons ago. Through her numerous lifetimes Tara created the accumulation of merits and wisdom, purified all obscurations, and finally attained realization, doing all of this always in female form . She manifests in 21 female forms which protect her devotees. As her compassion acts as quickly as lightning, she is also known as Nirmapamo, the Instantaneous Heroine. Because she is the legendary original mother of the Tibetan race, Tibetans refer to her as “Our Most Kind Mother”.
To the right of Tara is Jetstun Sangye Won Rinpoche. Sangye Won was born more than 700 years ago in the Taklung Valley to the Khazi family. He had been a Buddhist master for 21 lifetimes. In his lifetime as Sangye Won he remembered clearly his previous lives and did not need to study for he spontaneously remembered all of his teachings and understanding from previous lives. He had an extremely great effect on the people of his time, both through teaching and by demonstrating miraculous manifestations everywhere in Tibet and in Mongolia, China and India. He was the founder of the Riwoche Monastery. This statue of Sangye Won wearing the bone ornaments has been built in accordance with the actual vision of Sangye Won by the great Riwoche master Jedrung Thinley Jampa Jungnay. The vision is of Sangye Won as blue Akshobya.
* Historical timeframes are presented according to the Kalachakra system.